Trash Audit

A trash audit makes you more aware of your waste; it is a great starting place to reducing your trash. Everything on this planet STAYS on this planet… even after it leaves your home. The easiest way to audit your own rubbish is to keep a tally near the can or paper and a pen. Some people prefer to create a database in excel to compare their weekly collection. RECORD EVERYTHING. I’d add everything… including what goes in the garbage disposal, down the toilet, and in the bathroom trash as well. Do this for 3-4 weeks.  

Even if you aren’t planning to audit your trash you may be able to answer the questions below or use some of the goals later on in the post for inspiration.

For those of you coming to this post from ‘10 Goals to Become More Sustainable
I link you back to that page at the end!

1. What’s in your trash could be composted? Is there a lot of food waste or organic waste?

  • The first thing I did in my kitchen was to organize my fridge and weekly ‘menu’ based on what was expiring. I also made a point to eat my leftovers! When I found certain foods continued to go bad before I ate them, I stopped buying them in high quantities- i.e. avocados, mangos, and bananas.
  • Do you use lots of paper towels and paper goods? Most of these can be composted but if you are using them enough look for more sustainable swaps, like ‘unpaper’ towels. I have made my own with old flannel pants, or you can buy MORE sustainable ones- like ones made from bamboo, a more sustainable material.
    • This includes party plates, cups… etc.

2. Are there lots of single-use plastic items in the garbage?

This is a killer. Plastic is a durable material, it is made to last FOREVER… it really is an oxymoron to have ‘single-use’ plastic. CUT BACK!

  • If you use cling wrap, try bee’s wax wraps, or switch to Aluminum foil which can be truly recycled, 100%. Ziplock bags? Switch to silicone.
    • I didn’t find myself using Ziplocks often and when I had one I would continue to reuse it over and over. I recently learned about how this is dangerous for my health as is most plastic packaging our foods are stored in, especially the black trays a lot of microwave meals are heated in!
  • Plastic water bottles?! PLEASE cut this habit. Buy a filter system or test your water and drink it from the tap! Some counties also have free filling stations for filtered water, in case you have hard water.
    •  I will post an entire article about bottled water facts. How filtered is the water in comparison to your tap? Is the plastic still hot when the bottle is filled? How is filtered water regulated, is it? It’s SHOCKING!   
    • To learn more about YOUR tap water, check your zipcode here. I have 50% of the contaminants!
    • Filters are not all treated equally; there are carbon filters, charcoal sticks, and Brita-like systems. Brita and GE (fridge cartridges) have a recyclable program similar to printers ink.
screenshot from EWG’s website
This is regarding the 37918 KUB Knoxville water supply.

3. Are there lots of recyclable items included in your trash audit?

  • Sometimes out of habit we just toss things. Check the specifics about what can be collected in your recycling bin. Rinsing/cleaning and organizing your recyclables is an easy habit to create! Make it a goal to form a better habit to recycle properly.
    • In TN. I sort mine and take it to a recycling center. If you use the big blue bins where you are- make sure you do it right! I share more general details here.
  • This is an easy step to reducing our overall waste but it is the LAST step/option for sustainable living.
*Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, THEN recycle.*

Ok. Now that you have your trash audit findings, your overall stats, how do you cut back?

1. Maybe you don’t have a garden or space to compost.

I don’t either, I live in an apartment and consider it too temporary to set up a system. I collect my compost in paper bags (recycled) and keep it in my fridge and make monthly trips to drop it off.

  • There are full-cycle compostable options- if you are settled long term, I suggest this outdoor tumbling one on Amazon.
  • Otherwise, you can find a drop off location or pay for a bi-weekly or monthly pickup. I have found this option in 2 states: MD and TN. Sometimes it requires a few calls.
    • In MD it was in another county at an outdoor drop-off. Then I found a closer option: both the local grocery Co-Op and also MOM’s Organic market allowed me to drop-off my compost.
    • Now in TN, I take my compost to a community garden organization and they compost it to create organic soil for their gardens that enrich the food they feed to the community.

2. Did your trash audit results include single-use plastic?

This one is a bit tougher. Not all plastic is recyclable. This is why looking up your specific restrictions is important. More importantly, where can you cut back?

  •  Is it just the wrapping surrounding your TP? Then switch to TP wrapped in paper.
    • The most sustainable and still plush TP I have found (other than my soft flannel reusable kind) is ‘Reel’.
  • Is it wrapping that came off your fresh produce? This kills me!! It is so unnecessary.
    • Make sure to use reusable grocery bags- INCLUDING reusable produce bags. You can make these yourself with an old tank top!
  • During COVID19, if you’re doing curbside pickups, you can request they bring out your groceries without bags… then just bag it at the curbside.  You can also request they box it in a stock box. Cardboard is easily recycled.

3. Build a habit to properly recycle.

Take an hour or so to go on your local recycling company’s website to learn what their requirements are. This sometimes changes- it might not be the same as what is listed on your blue bin! And ALWAYS clean your recyclables.

And lastly, use a trash bag made from recycled plastic or better vegetable resin!  
  • Evolution bags are made of recycled plastic. They’re also a “1% for the planet” company. I got these in a housewarming gift box my mom made. I’ll have them for years considering my waste pile has dwindled substantially.
  • One I would also recommend is Biobag, made from a resin from GMO-free crops. It is ‘certified compostable’ and rapidly composts within commercial and municipal compounds. This bag can be used for both trash and compost piles, alike.

Did your trash audit give you any insight to where you can cut back? Click here to go back to the List of Goals to Become more Sustainable in 2021.

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